Friday, July 28, 2017

Artist Life: giant bookstacks, my creative space and pop-up prints

The artist life is feast or famine. You work away quietly on different things in solitude and then all of a sudden, everything happens at once. It's been a pretty exciting week. For starters, this happened:

Blarney Books & Art, Port Fairy, Victoria

I was commissioned by Blarney Books & Art in beautiful Port Fairy to paint bookstacks to adorn the exterior of the shop. Painting the colourful stacks was so much fun and an absolute joy - especially knowing where they were going to end up!

Thanks to bookshop owner extraordinaire Jo Canham for having this incredible idea and for giving me the opportunity to make it a reality. Also thanks goes out to Liz Gannon whose know-how and skills helped to transform the original watercolours into an impressive wall installation. If you ever find yourself in Port Fairy stop by and visit this remarkable bookshop, which is just off the main drag but well worth seeking out.

The next thing that happened was that I was interviewed by Jenni Mazaraki from Local Story Space about my creative space and art practice. We had a lovely chat and the resulting feature was really beautiful. You can even see me working on one of the Blarney bookstacks in some of the photos!
Jodi Wiley - Photo by Jenni Mazaraki

And lastly, the response to my pop-up prints shop has been overwhelming. This was an experiment of sorts - and so far it's been a very happy success!

I do want to open the shop again at some point but I'm not sure when and which prints will remain as next time I will make space for other work to be available. So if you're interested in any prints, you have until this Monday 31st July, 8pm (AEST) to place an order! Following that I will be printing (which I outsource to a local Fine Art printer), hand-signing, packaging and shipping all orders as quickly as I can!

Jodi Wiley - Fine Art Giclée prints of Now Write! in A3 and Classics Collection in A4

Thank you to everyone who has supported me in so many ways, from buying a print, to sharing the news of the pop-up shop, to sending me a supportive message or even just reading this blog! Thank you. As an artist, all I really want is to connect with people and the fact that you're here means a lot.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Story of the Book Paintings

At last I've opened an online shop for archival prints of my watercolour bookstacks. Hooray! A long-held goal of mine finally reached.

Jodi Wiley - watercolour on paper (L-R Now Write!, Classics Collection, Before You Grow Up.)

My book paintings started initially as a way to document my own collection. The bookshelves were bulging, so I thought if I could paint some I could then cull them.

The project consumed me. I got very excited about the combinations of stacks I could make. I collected them into themes and favourites and even sourced some books from my family to create the vintage stacks. Some of my grandparents' childhood books are in there.

Many of the books represent a period of my life or spark a memory of the time I received it, read it, or even taught it when I was an English teacher.

Eventually I had a body of work, but was no closer to culling the books. The ones I painted seemed to take on even more meaning than before.

Earlier this year I exhibited this work at Blarney Books & Art in Port Fairy in a show called Marginalia and the response I got was overwhelming. It turned out many others feel the same way about books as I do. That even though most of the words we consume now come in digital form, the physical book will always have a place as a treasured object, representing far more than the words between the covers.

Each painting was created with a stack of real books in front of me. The outline of the stack is done first on watercolour paper, then the colour applied with multiple glazes of watercolour. The paintings are time consuming because you must wait for each glaze to dry completely.

But the most time-intensive element is also my favourite: hand-lettering the titles on the spines. I use a combination of watercolour, ink and gouache for this part and love to get lost in the process.

Jodi Wiley - Little Oxford

I revel in making the books look as realistic as possible: the wear and tear of the spines, bowed covers, dog-eared pages and the shadows cast by a skewed stack.

I have been wanting to set up an online shop selling archival prints for ages and I've finally got around to it!

It's open as a pop-up only until the end of the month: from Tuesday 18 July until Monday 31st July, 8pm (AEST). For more information head over to the shop's FAQ page.

Jodi Wiley - The Places You'll Go

I'm so happy with the beautiful quality of the prints. They are outsourced to a local Fine Art printer in Melbourne and are printed with pigment inks on archival, acid-free cotton rag paper. I will be signing and packaging each individual print myself with great love and care!

So here is the shop! Let me know what you think :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ways to show your work - big and small

Sometimes I don't feel like showing my work. It might be in the early stages and not 'ready'. Or I don't want feedback to influence my direction - even positive feedback can interfere with my internal compass.

But if I go too long without showing my work doubts begin to grow. That voice starts up, 'this isn't working and it never will / you might as well give up now / and who do you think you are anyway?'

But I've taught myself not to aim for perfection. It doesn't exist. And I've learnt to head off those voices by just putting my work out there.

As artists we need to show our work - we have to if we want to keep making it. Art is for sharing and connecting with others. That's its very purpose.

So even if I don't feel 'ready' I will take small steps and then big ones to start showing my work. Here are some ways I do that.

Show Small: Show work-in-progress on social media. While something might not be ripe to show in a fully-realised solo exhibition, I might post a work-in-progress on Instagram. I like to see other artists' processes so I show mine in the spirit of sharing. By doing that I feel part of a community of artists all striving to make and share art and that helps divert the negative self-talk.

A recent Instagram post of a quick sketch which may lead to a more fully-realised work or a possible series.

Show Medium: Enter a competition or group show. If I think an idea is getting there, I might take it a step further and enter a single painting in a competition or group show. Winning the prize or selling the work is not the point. There's nothing like seeing your work on a gallery wall to help you make a decision about whether this is the direction you want to go. You see it with fresh eyes and it helps you take the next creative step.

Showing this work 'Marginalia' in the Banyule Award for Works on Paper in 2015 lead to conceptualising my recent solo show of the same name at Blarney Books & Art in Port Fairy.

Show Big: Organise a solo show. If I think a theme is emerging and I can see how my work is starting to link together I begin to look at where I might want to show that work and then I book it! It gives me a deadline, great motivation and the impetus to refine the body of work into something cohesive. It can be a little scary, but sometimes that extra push of a looming deadline is exactly what I need.

I signed the contract for my 2015 solo exhibition 'Home is Where the Light Is' at Montsalvat about 18 months beforehand - giving me time to fully develop the show and the external motivation to get the work done. Photo credit: Maria Colaidis.

Showing our work helps us make decisions about what we want to show and how we want to show it. Every showing - whether it's a quick snap on social media or a well-developed exhibition in a gallery - gives us valuable feedback about our work.

But we need to remember we should only measure our success against our own standards - not some stranger's random comment, or the fact we didn't win the prize.

If we want to keep growing as artists, we need to put our work out there and keep making art.

I'll leave the last word to Andy Warhol who said maybe one of my favourite quotes on this topic:

“Don't think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Friday, January 20, 2017

Documentary sketching - making a book guitar

There's a little over a week left of my exhibition Marginalia at Blarney Books & Art in Port Fairy.

One of the really fun things about this show was getting to collaborate with my husband, Kim. For a little while now he's been making cigar box guitars but decided for this show to tie in with the book theme by making guitars out of actual books. They not only look fantastic but sound amazing.

I decided to document the process of making a book guitar in an accordion sketchbook.

Jodi Wiley - Making a Book Guitar sketchbook

First I sketched the actual books. These are old Reader's Digest editions which I think came from my great-grandmother. Kim carefully removed all the pages and built a box to fit the covers.

This was followed by measuring, cutting, sanding and shaping the neck. Here I sketched him at work:

Jodi Wiley - Making a Book Guitar sketchbook

Each guitar has a pick-up inside so that it can be plugged into an amplifier. Before it all got built, I sketched the parts, including the tuning pegs.

Jodi Wiley - Making a Book Guitar sketchbook

And then the finished product:

Jodi Wiley - Making a Book Guitar sketchbook

Kim gets out to his workshop mainly at nights and on weekends so a guitar might take anywhere between a week or several weeks to make depending on lots of factors like sourcing parts, the design and wood-craft involved in the neck (the most time-consuming aspect), making sound holes, attaching tuning pegs, stringing and tuning.

The accordion sketchbook showing the making process is on display in the gallery.

Jodi Wiley - Making a Book Guitar sketchbook

The green-patterned guitar featured in the sketchbook has now sold but other book guitars are still available, including extra special custom-made boxes featuring my book paintings. All the guitars are totally functional and are played with a slide.

Kim Wiley / Jodi Wiley guitars

The show as a whole has had a great run with lovely feedback, sales of original paintings and lots of people taking prints home with them (many prints have sold out but for those interested more will be available in the gallery in the next few days).

'Marginalia' exhibition at Blarney Books & Art

Marginalia is on for another two weekends - the final day is Sunday 29th January 2017.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

New show of watercolour book paintings

My new paintings are on show NOW! More info over at my studio blog here.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I've been thinking...and a new name

So I've been thinking. School holidays will do that. We have done a lot of fun activities but I have only managed one sketch for myself (see below) and so have been ruminating instead.

Jodi Wiley sketch - ink and watercolour. Pot plants in the backyard.

I really want to write more on this blog about the sketching life: the process, materials, the choosing-of-subject-matter, the finding-of-time, the why and the how of it. I want to write about my own experiences of maintaining (or trying to maintain) a sketching practice amid a busy family life and connect with fellow-sketchers along the way.

I would love to hear from you - what kinds of things would you like to read about? I'm no expert but I like to sketch and I like to write and I also like to share. Questions, comments, feedback and ideas welcome! Please reach me at or facebook or instagram.

Lastly, a bit of housekeeping. The domain name for this blog is changing from to to better reflect what it's about. In a couple of days the switch will be official so if you currently have this blog listed in your bloglovin' or feedly or other blog feed reader, please re-enter it as to keep receiving my extremely infrequent posts!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sketching on holiday and book art

There's nothing like holiday sketching. Everything is inspiring and new. There is more time for play and a strong incentive to record the memories.

Jodi Wiley - sketches in The Perfect Sketchbook

I took my The Perfect Sketchbook away to Port Fairy last weekend and there was no shortage of subject matter. I'd been a little apprehensive about starting this sketchbook because the paper is so lush but I'm glad I did because it's beautiful to work on. It takes heaps of water - little to no buckling - and is very forgiving.

Jodi Wiley - Port Fairy beach sketch

While away I mostly do quick pen drawings on location and take a few reference pics to finish off with watercolour in a quiet moment or at night when the kids are in bed. I don't want to hold anyone up by dragging out the paints and we're usually on the move quite a bit with different activities.

Jodi Wiley - Warrnambool Merri Island sketch

There is something about sketching and painting the sea that is very relaxing. Even in the winter. Even in the wind and cold! We got lots of lovely sun and that's all I needed to capture some beautiful views while the kids played in the sand or had a fish.

Jodi Wiley - Port Fairy holiday spread

We were in Port Fairy for the wonderful annual BiblioArt Award at Blarney Books and Art which requires artists to create an artwork inspired by - and physically using - a vintage book. I was thrilled to hear that my work had made the shortlist and one of the judges Dianne Longley said some lovely things about it during the prize announcement on opening night.

Jodi Wiley - 'A Handbook to Plants'

The following day Dianne gave a fascinating talk on artist books and I sketched the bookshop while I listened. Afterwards I felt very inspired to attempt an artist book day!

Jodi Wiley - Blarney Books and Art sketch

All in all it was a perfect weekend of family fun, seaside sketching, books and art.